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Big science teams up with big business to kick-start European cloud computing market

publication date: Mar 5, 2012
author/source: CloudSigma
CloudSigmaToday an 18 strong consortium of companies and research organisations announced a partnership to launch a European cloud computing platform. It will support the requirements of European scientific research, as well as government organisations and commercial enterprises. The primary objectives of the partnership are twofold: to accelerate the search for the elusive Higgs particle, genomic analysis in biomedical research, and research of natural disasters; and to kick-start cloud computing within Europe.

The biggest names in the ICT industry have come together to offer a range of services in an open standards-based framework addressing European data privacy concerns on a large-scale.

By showing how cloud computing can help solve some of societies biggest challenges, the European cloud-based scientific e-infrastructure will open the way for public organisations to profit from commercial cloud services.

The initiative is called Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud, named after the large planetary nebula sometimes referred to as the ‘Eye of God'. Its goal is to ignite the European market for cloud computing services as proposed in a strategic plan and deployment started in January 2012.

Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud creates a pan-European partnership across academia and industry, enabling innovation for science and creating new commercial markets.

Initially, three flagship use cases are being developed to demonstrate the impact Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud will have on science, allowing for experimentation and testing while scaling-up the cloud infrastructure.

First, CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics, will have access to more computing power to process data from the ATLAS experiment at its Large Hadron Collider accelerator. 

"CERN's computing capacity needs to keep-up with the data coming from the Large Hadron Collider and we see Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud as a great way of working with industry to meet this challenge," said Frédéric Hemmer, head of CERN's IT department.

Second, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is setting up a new service to simplify the analysis of large genomes, such as those from mammals, allowing a deeper insight into evolution and biodiversity across a range of organisms. 

"The quantities of genomic sequence data are vast and the needs for high performance computing infrastructures and bioinformatics expertise to analyse these data pose a challenge for many laboratories. EMBL's novel cloud-based whole-genome-assembly and annotation pipeline involves expertise from the Genomics Core facility in Germany, EMBL-EBI's institute at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Cambridge UK, and EMBL Heidelberg's IT Services. It will help scientists, inside and outside EMBL, to overcome these hurdles and provision the right infrastructure on demand," said Rupert Lueck, head of IT services at EMBL. 

Third, the European Space Agency (ESA), in partnership with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in France, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is collaborating with the National Research Council (CNR) in Italy, to create an Earth observation platform focusing on earthquake and volcano research. 

This undertaking is done in the framework of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a voluntary partnership of governments and international organisations. Volker Liebig, ESA Director for Earth observation programmes, said, "Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud is a partnership with the potential to support an utmost exploitation of ESA satellite data, as well as to bring other communities on board to better understand the geophysical phenomena of our planet." 

All three flagship applications will be deployed during a 2 year pilot phase. The commercial partners are Atos, Capgemini, CloudSigma, Interoute, Logica, Orange Business Services, SAP, SixSq, Telefonica, Terradue, Thales, The Server Labs and T Systems, along with the Cloud Security Alliance, the OpenNebula Project and the European Grid Infrastructure ( They will all work together to establish a federated and secure high-performance computing cloud platform.

This pilot stage represents a crucial proof of concept between big science and industry. Addressing the legal and policy constraints for the management of scientific data by commercial partners will lead to a sustainable European digital cloud market. 

Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud supports Europe's Digital Agenda as outlined by European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes during her speech about setting up a European Cloud Partnership to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2012. She said, "it is a true win-win: the Cloud market will grow, bringing opportunities for existing suppliers and new entrants. And Cloud buyers, including the public sector, will buy more with less and become more efficient."

More scientific organisations and service providers will be welcome to join Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud in the near future. For more details about Helix Nebula - the Science Cloud and how to become a consortium member, please visit us on Facebook, follow-us on Twitter (@HelixNebulaSC) or send an email to

For more information, visit

About CERN

CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. Its headquarters are in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Romania is a candidate for accession. Israel is an Associate Member in the pre-stage to membership. The European Commission, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, Turkey, UNESCO and the United States of America, all have Observer status.

About EMBL

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is a basic research institute sponsored by public research funding from 20 member states (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and associate member state Australia. Research at EMBL is conducted by approximately 85 independent groups covering molecular biology. The laboratory has five units: the main laboratory in Heidelberg, outstations in Hinxton (the European Bioinformatics Institute), Grenoble, Hamburg, and Monterotondo near Rome. The cornerstones of EMBL's mission are: to perform basic research in molecular biology; to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels; to offer vital services to scientists in Member States; to develop new instruments and methods in the life sciences, and to actively engage in technology transfer activities. Around 190 students are enrolled in EMBL's International PhD programme. Additionally, the laboratory offers a platform for dialogue with the general public through various science communication activities such as lecture series, visitor programmes and the dissemination of scientific achievements.

About ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe's gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organisation with 19 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. 

ESA's job is to draw up the European space programme and carry it through. ESA's programmes are designed to find out more about Earth, its immediate space environment, our Solar System and the Universe, as well as to develop satellite-based technologies and services, and to promote European industries. ESA also works closely with space organisations outside Europe.



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